Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Plug For N.H. Resident Power. Yes, We Signed Up

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Click to access You should definitely look.

Given that I am, at best, a sporadic viewer of WMUR (Channel 9), and tend to skip over commercials, it was a longtime before one of the ‘Resident Power‘ ads finally got through to me. I had heard about them and had seen them on the Winnipesaupkee forum that I skim through last thing at night, usually around 12:20 am. But, once it was lodged in my mind I checked them out on the Web. I read the FAQs (but didn’t watch the video). It made sense to me. I could see any downside or obvious ‘gotachas’. As ever I did a few Googles using ‘scam’ and ‘trouble’ as keywords. It all seemed kosher. From all I could see, I couldn’t see how I could lose. Yes, I had to signup for a year, but there did not appear to be any fees to signup. One bill — from dear PSNH. So that would stay the same — and they direct debit me anyway. So, the only way I could lose was if by some miracle PSNH decided to lower their rates after I signed up. Well, pigs might fly too.

So, I bit the bullet and applied, online. I have to say that they have gone out of their way to make the sign up process straightforward. Yes, they needed a couple of items from my PSNH bill but had very clear instructions as to exactly where on the bill I would find the requisite information. I am not sure whether they did get back to me within the 2 weeks they promised. I think it took longer. At one point I thought that they were not going to get back. But, a few days after that I did get their ‘sign up’ e-mail saying that my fixed rate for 12 months would be $0.07695/kWh. That was a 7.5% discount on PSNH. The 7.5%, however, is not against the whole bill. The PSNH power delivery rates stay the same. The 7.5% is just off the power generation portion — which is roughly 50% of my bill. So the initial saying were about $5/month. The way I look at it is that that is still better than a kick in the teeth. [I don’t think I still have seen the discount because it takes 2 months for it to kick in, and I only got my ‘sign up’ e-mail last month.]

Yesterday, I got another e-mail from Resident Power saying PSNH, as of April 16, 2012, had increased their rates to $0.0875/kWh. My discount just jumped. So I am even happier.

I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago that I had gone with Resident Power. He lives on the Alton/Wolfeboro border and gets his power from Wolfeboro Electric (town run) as opposed to PSNH. He thought that his rate was 1/2 that of PSNH. I checked. His rate is $0.1564/kWh. That is twice what I am paying.

My sincere recommendation: check out Resident Power. What do YOU have to lose other than a few minutes of your time … and you could end up saying at least $5/month.

Huge, Heartfelt THANKS to Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s Office

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

.by Anura Guruge

This had to do with an arcane law that taxes what is called the ‘workman’s comp offset‘ in one’s Social Security disability. At a time when the fairness of the overall tax system is being debated it is very germane to talk about this since it taxes one on benefits that one did NOT RECEIVE! Yes, you read that right. You pay taxes on SS benefits you did NOT receive. ‘Workman’s Comp Offset’ applies to those disabled that received a Workman’s Comp. settlement in addition to the SS disability they receive. The ‘OFFSET’ is the amount that SS deducts from your SS disability to compensate for what you got from Workman’s Comp. That is perfectly fair and valid.

[Here is a very crude, and probably unrepresentative example just to show you what we are talking about. Lets say your SS disability calculations based on all the formulas they use is meant to be $162/month. You receive a Workman’s Comp settlement, say a lump sum, which per the laws of most states, including NH, is then reported to the SS as an amortized MONTHLY payment spread over the recipient’s life expectancy. For this example lets say that SS was using a Workman’s Comp monthly payment of $32. SS would now reduce the $162 by $32 and only pay $130 a month. Get it?]

Here is the CATCH. SS, in the annual SSA-1099 tax document they issue and send to the IRS, states the ‘Offset’ as part of the taxable benefit. So, per my crude example above, they would report $32 x 12 months, $384, to the IRS as the ‘workman’s comp offset’. That $384 is taxable, though it is actually the monies the SSA never paid the recipient. To be fair, this is also ‘OK’ because you don’t get taxed on ALL of your SS payments. So by the time you have done all of the ‘1/2 of line 2 times 0.85 of line 16 less 1/3 of line 38‘ the numbers become manageable. Quite a few people don’t pay any taxes on their SS anyway.

But, if the SSA makes a $58,958 ERROR in what they report on your SSA-1099 you are in deep trouble! Since it is reported to the IRS there is no wriggle room.  That was what happened to my wife. We were very fortunate that Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office, in particular Cara Osborn, Special Assistant for Constituent Services, of the Dover Office, jumped in, contacted the Social Security Administration (SSA) and helped us get a new, amended SSA-1099 – with just enough time for us to file our tax return without having to seek an extension (something I had never done and was very nervous about having to do). Thank YOU, Cara … and Mrs. Shaheen.

My wife who had been a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA) for over 9 years got badly injured in mid-2006 when she and another LNA were trying to transfer an elderly patient from her bed to a chair. During the transfer the patient ‘let go’ — basically stopped trying to support herself. Though both LNAs were using the ‘transfer belts’ that they are supposed to use, my wife ended up supporting a person considerably heavier than her. She herniated multiple disks in one go. She was off work and is still in pain despite major back surgery. She got a Workman’s Comp settlement in 2008 and after a hearing with a judge, in ‘late’ 2010, SSA disability. So, that is the background.

Since her SSA disability only kicked-in in late 2010, SSA didn’t get around to doing all of the Workman’s Comp calculations till 2011. So everything, which is backdated etc., was included in the 2011 SSA-1099. As soon as I saw it I knew that something was wrong. The reported ‘workman’s comp offset’ was close to three times her ENTIRE workman’s comp. settlement. Even with backdating etc. I could not see how any offset could end up being three times what was being offset. My wife called the SSA. This was in mid-January, 2012. After 40 minutes she spoke to a lady. At one point this SSA lady came to the same conclusion as me: ‘how can the offset be so much bigger than the original amount‘. She promised that she will get it looked at and that we will receive a letter in a month.

The month anniversary came. No letter. We waited 3 days and my wife called again. This time an even longer wait. They said ‘Oh, you should get a letter by March 15‘. I was getting worried. We went down to the local SSA Office in Concord and waited in line. They were MOST HELPFUL. We spoke to two agents. They both said: ‘there is something wrong‘. They then also went onto say: ‘we can’t fix it here. It has to be fixed in Baltimore and you are looking at at least 2 months‘. That would have put us beyond April. I asked if there was anything else we could do. They said you could try contacting one of the US representatives or Senators. I decided to contact Mrs. Shaheen given that we have always been very impressed with her. We wrote to the D.C. office. Within 72 hours we had a call. We had to sign and return a ‘release’ form so that they could contact SSA on our behalf. We did that forthwith. Cara, from Dover, handled all of this graciously — always supportive, ever helpful. On March 19 we got an amended SSA-1099, with the offset $58,958 less than that originally reported. I had time to do our taxes.

Thank you Mrs. Shaheen, Cara …, all at Mrs. Shaheen’s multiple offices, and all those at SSA that helped us out. [Yes, my wife has had two lawyers. The ever impeccable Shawn Nichols of Wescott, Dyer, Fitzgerald, & Nichols, PA, who handled her Workman’s Comp and another who handled the SS hearing. My wife contacted them both. There was nothing they could do. This problem had to be fixed by the SSA.] So, I hope this helps anybody else that finds themselves in a similar bind.

Resounding Endorsement to the ‘Red Arrow Diner’, Manchester, NH (Not That They Need One From Me)

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

Click image for the '' Web site

Given that I am far from being a fussy eater (especially since I stopped being primarily carnivorous) I generally do not rave or disparage eating establishments. Provided that they are not downright rude to me (as was the case once at a pretensions Alton restaurant that did not like the color of my skin), I tend to be an uncomplaining, undemanding, habitually polite, always proper diner that goes out of my way to be pleasant to the servers and generally tip above the norm. Given that for much of my life, when I traveled way more than most, I frequented eateries on a routine basis, I tend not to get too worked up about most restaurants. Kind of ambivalent. But, today was an exception. Part of it was that it was so serendipitous.

We had hoped to go to the Currier Museum in the morning and then see ‘Lorax‘, in 3-D, at 4pm in Concord. Though I had called them up on Friday they forgot to mention that they would be closed on Sunday for Easter! I though about going to Parker’s Maple Barn not having visited it in a decade. But it was Easter and I knew that the wait time would be in hours. So, I drove around Manchester seeing inspiration. I turned into Lowell St. (off Elm) since what used to be my favorite restaurant in NH was on the street — ‘Richard’s Bistro‘ (that has now changed hands with Richard’s retirement). My wife, Deanna, ‘spotted’ the diner. We have drive by it hundreds of times before but had never really taken mush notice of it given its unprepossessing exterior. We all fancied a good meal in a diner. I had pancakes in mind.

It was noon and it was packed. People lined up against the wall waiting for one of the five tables (each capable of seating four). We decided to wait. It was warm and pleasant enough. They had good music. We waited about 25 minutes for a table. The kids were remarkably patient.

The food was exceptional — and coming from me, that means a lot. The portions were generous, it looked it, it tasted right, the prices were realistic and the service divine.

I had their ‘famous’ pork pie with banana pancakes, scrambled eggs and baked beans. It was very good. Deanna, as is her wont, had a BLT with fries. It was huge and had to have been beyond good because she, uncharacteristically, ate it all. Usually we bring some home. Devanee had Belgium waffles (with the works) and Teischan, one fussy and finicky eater, had a Mickey Mouse chocolate chip pancake with bacon. They both cleaned their plates. That is even rarer than Deanna finishing a BLT in one sitting. That alone was memorable to me.

We were served by a bright and cheerful young man. High school student; the owner’s son. He said he loved working their and it showed. All the others were fun too.

Now, this is one place that does NOT need my endorsement. Judging from the pictures and newspaper clippings on the walls, not to mention the name plaques of famous people that had sat in those chairs, they are BEYOND famous. [Al Gore had sat in my seat, which made me happy.] Check them out. You won’t regret it. I am sure of that.

One day I really should also write about Richard’s. I first went there in 1997 having heard about it from a local contact. I was blown away. Over the next decade I frequented it frequently. I got to know Richard who was a wonderful person. I would coax business clients staying in Boston to drive up for dinner there. Without exception all would say that it was well worth the 1-hour drive from Boston! Two well heeled clients, one a CEO from London and another a V.P. from Dallas said it was one of the best meals they have ever had. That is mighty praise. Well, the Red Arrow is a different experience, but to me it ranks among one of the best I have had in a long time. Thank you.